As we count down to the new year of 2024 — which will be Orlando City’s 10th in MLS and the Orlando Pride’s ninth in the NWSL — and say goodbye to 2023, it’s time to look back at the club’s 10 best moments of the year as selected by The Mane Land staff via vote.
Back on Jan. 19, the Orlando Pride signed Brazil national team attacker Adriana Leal da Silva (commonly known simply as Adriana, but nicknamed “the wizard”) on a transfer from São Paulo-based Brazilian side Corinthians. The Pride used Allocation Money for both the signing and the transfer, inking Adriana to a three-year contract that runs through the 2025 season.
It was a transformative signing and was such a boost to the team that it is our No. 6 moment of 2023.
Although it took Adriana a while to settle in with her new teammates and surroundings, as is often the case with a player traveling abroad to join a new club, she ended up being the club’s most vital (and probably most valuable) player. Adriana gave the Pride another dangerous attacking piece, both via the shot and the pass, with pace.
“I am very happy to have signed with Orlando Pride, a special club,” Adriana said in the club’s press release. “I am happy and excited to arrive there quickly and be able to do my best on the field to help Orlando win titles. It’s a big challenge ahead and we athletes are motivated by challenges. I’m ready to face all of them with all our strength as a team and fight tooth-and-nail. I hope it’s a very successful season for myself and for Orlando. Again, I am very happy to be part of this great club.”
As mentioned earlier, Adriana didn’t start clicking right away. She merely showed glimpses of her talent and what attributes she could bring to the team. It took her five matches to score her first goal and she earned her first NWSL assist in the same game — a 3-1 road win over the San Diego Wave on April 29. It’s probably not a coincidence that it was the Pride’s first win of the season. Her first goal contribution was a corner kick delivery that turned into an assist when Mikayla Cluff headed it into the back of the net to tie the score in the 26th minute. Haley McCutcheon put the Pride ahead just before halftime. Adriana then added an insurance goal in the 69th minute, freeing herself up with her footwork and placing a perfect shot inside the far post. It was a great way to open her Pride account.
Adriana went five more games before her next goal contribution, but she was starting to show signs of the dangerous attacker she is, averaging three shot attempts per match in that span. She broke through with a two-goal performance in a 3-1 win over the Portland Thorns on June 11. That game was The Mane Land’s No. 8 Moment of 2023.
Missing two matches on international duty and another due to injury, Adriana played in eight of the Pride’s final 11 matches of the season. She added three more goals and three more assists to her season total across her final eight games of the season. That enabled her to finish with a share of the team lead in goals (6) and assists (4) for the team’s 2023 campaign. But she was a threat throughout most of those final eight matches to end up with even more goal contributions.
Adriana ultimately appeared in 19 of Orlando’s 22 NWSL regular-season matches in 2023 (all starts), logging 1,645 minutes. She finished fourth on the team in minutes, fourth in starts, and seventh in appearances. She attempted a team-high 41 (non-blocked) shots and put a club-best 25 on target. Adriana passed at a 75.5% success rate, completing 46 key passes, and 36.8% of her long passes, but just three of 32 open-play cross attempts. Defensively, Adriana tracked back well and finished with nine interceptions and two blocks. She was successful on 77.3% of her 17 tackle attempts, 47.8% of her 203 duels, and 50% of her 18 aerial duels. She won 35 fouls, committed 20, and received two yellow cards on the season.
In the NWSL Challenge Cup, Adriana wasn’t used much, playing just eight minutes off the bench in her one appearance in the competition. This was largely due to her being on international duty for four of the six matches, and she did not contribute a goal or assist, attempting two shots and putting one on frame.
The Mane Land staff gave Adriana a composite rating of 7.5 out of 10 for her 2023 season. It’s not a stretch to say she was the Pride’s most valuable player this season. With another off-season with the team coming up, she should be able to contribute even more in 2024, and potentially avoid the two slumps she had at the start of the year.
Her signing, and the jolt of quality and attacking prowess Adriana gave the Pride in 2023, got the Pride within goal differential of earning just their second ever postseason appearance. That’s why her signing is a worthy inclusion in our list of the best moments of 2023.
Come back through New Year’s Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City’s top 10 moments of 2023.
Previous Top Moments of 2023
10. The Orlando Pride select breakout stars Emily Madril and Messiah Bright in the 2023 NWSL Draft.
9. OCB draws at Chicago and then wins a shootout, clinching its first playoff spot since 2016.
8. Orlando Pride dump Portland Thorns 3-1 in June, kick-starting the team’s push for the playoffs.
7. Orlando City gets a late goal to defeat Santos Laguna 3-2 in Leagues Cup play, earning its first win over Liga MX competition.
Orlando Pride Sign Midfielder Kerry Abello to New Contract
The Pride have signed midfielder Kerry Abello to a new three-year contract.
The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that the club has signed midfielder Kerry Abello to a new three-year contract. The deal keeps Abello in purple through the 2026 NWSL season.
“We are thrilled to keep Kerry in Orlando through 2026. Since joining the club, she has proven to be a reliable and versatile player for our team,” Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “In a few short years, she has grown into a leader in our locker room and sets the standard for professionalism and accountability, two values we center our culture around. Ensuring she remains a part of what we are building here, both on and off the field, was a priority for us in the off-season. We are happy to bring that to fruition and look forward to her continued growth and performance.”
Abello was initially drafted by the Pride with the 24th pick of the 2021 NWSL Draft, but decided to return to school for a fifth season. The club finally signed the Penn State product to a two-year contract on Jan. 28, 2022. The midfielder signed another two-year deal on Feb. 23, 2023, with a club option for 2025. Just over a year later, she’s now inked a third contract, ensuring her stay in Orlando will run through 2026.
Initially coming off the bench, Abello became a regular starter late in her rookie season. Over the past three years, she’s seen time at attacking and defensive midfield, showing her versatility. In total, Abello has made 49 appearances (31 starts) in all competitions and recorded 2,835 minutes. She’s scored one goal and contributed one assist.
Last year, the 24-year-old midfielder made 25 appearances (18 starts), recording 1,642 minutes, and adding a goal and an assist. She participated in all but two league games and five of the team’s six Challenge Cup contests.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is truly no place I’d rather be. Thank you, Orlando, for having me for the next three years,” Abello said in a club press release. “I’m feeling full of joy, gratitude, and inspiration. There’s work to be done, and I can’t wait to put my whole heart into this season and all the rest. Vamos!”
The Batavia, IL, native was a part of the United States youth set up at the U-14, U-15, U-17, U-18, and U-19 levels. She received a call up to the U-23 U.S. Women’s National Team for the 2022 Women’s U-23 Three-Nations Tournament, scoring in a 3-0 win over Sweden.
Prior to being drafted by the Pride, Abello was a three-time All-Big Ten selection, helping Penn State win three Big Ten championships. She was also named to the All-North Team twice in her five collegiate seasons.
What It Means for Orlando
Similar to her last contract, this deal ensures that Abello will continue her stay in Orlando beyond the upcoming season. She originally started on the bench under former Pride head coach Amanda Cromwell, but won over Seb Hines with her versatility in the midfield. During her first two professional season, she’s played extensively at attacking and defensive midfield. However, she can also play on the back line, having been a center back in college.
Following the 2023 NWSL season, Carter told The Mane Land’s Skopurp Soccer podcast that the club focused on the back line last off-season and was focusing on the midfield this off-season. Signing Abello, who has been a crucial part of the club’s rebuild, was always going to be part of that plan.
Between the re-signing of Abello and the new additions to the team, the midfield has more depth than before. Abello’s presence could be crucial, because the midfield’s Brazilian internationals will likely miss time due to international call-ups. Abello can fill in multiple positions, ensuring there won’t be a significant drop-off when the internationals depart.
Orlando Pride Unveil New Kits Ahead of 2024 NWSL Season
The Pride take part in the NWSL kit reset with new primary and secondary jerseys for the 2024 season.
The Orlando Pride unveiled their two new kits today ahead of the 2024 NWSL season. The jerseys are part of the league-wide kit reset, launched by the NWSL and Nike. The club’s new Phoenix Kit features the Pride’s two recognizable colors, purple and blue, and the secondary Citrus Kit has an all-new color scheme, paying tribute to Florida’s citrus industry. Both jerseys will be formally unveiled on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at “The Kit Party presented by Orlando Health,” taking place at the Orlando Regional History Center.
Replicas of the two new jerseys are available for purchase at ShopOrlandoPride.com, in The Den at Inter&Co Stadium during regular business hours, and on NWSLshop.com. Replica goalkeeper jerseys will also be made available during a late spring release.
“We are proud to share two new, powerful kits with our fans and honored that we are again able to share the story of one of the pillars of our community and the state of Florida,” Pride Chief Marketing Officer Pedro Araujo said in a club press release. “Each year, it is important for us to use our platform to celebrate those that laid the foundation for our city, and this year is no different. We hope our fans are as excited to wear the Citrus Kit and the Phoenix Kit as we are, and to proudly represent Orlando both at home and outside of Central Florida. This new partnership with Nike is a very exciting moment for the league. We’re grateful for their continued support of the Orlando Pride and the NWSL as a whole and are excited for the future opportunities this new, refreshed commitment will bring to our kits and team performance gear.”
The Citrus Kit features a new orange and iced-out green scheme, a first for the Pride, with inspiration taken from Central Florida’s citrus industry. The jersey features oranges and leaves, with letters and numbers featuring the same iced-out green coloring. The design of the kit takes direct inspiration from the historic packaging of citrus crates and labels, unique to each grove. The back of the socks features a hand-drawn “Pride,” which is also inspired by the labels. Meanwhile, the “Outer Pride” on the lower corner of the jersey is a stylized “OP” with an orange cross-section and orange blossom leaves and flowers.
The primary home jersey this season will be the new Phoenix Kit, which is more recognizable to fans. The jersey features the club’s traditional colors of purple with blue letters and numbers. The jersey features a unique two-toned purple gradient that runs diagonally from the top right to the bottom left of the jersey. The club’s shirt sponsor, Orlando Health, remains in white, but the letters, numbers, and Nike logo on the darker purple are the team’s second color, “Eola Blue.”
The new kits are part of the NWSL’s league-wide kit reset, the first time a women’s professional soccer league has presented refreshed primary and secondary uniforms for all of its teams. Each club is receiving jerseys that reflect the club’s identity and joyful expression and celebrate the team’s community.
The Pride’s unveiling has been in cooperation with Hollieanna Groves, a local and family-owned grower, harvester, packer, and shipper of Florida citrus. The Maitland-based company is a fourth-generation packing house and sales room, providing the backdrop for one of the club’s kit photo shoots.
Here are some photos of the Pride’s newest kits courtesy of the Pride:
Orlando Pride Place Megan Montefusco on Season-Ending Injury List
The Orlando Pride have placed center back Megan Montefusco on the season-ending injury list following surgery on her right foot.
The Orlando Pride announced this afternoon that center back Megan Montefusco has been placed on the season-ending injury list. The defender had off-season right foot surgery, performed by the club’s official medical team, to repair a long-term problem.
“This is an unfortunate situation for Megan, though we’re happy she was able to address an issue that has plagued her for some time, and we are confident she will come out of this a stronger athlete,” Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter said in a club press release. “Our club is fully behind her and will support her throughout her rehab process, as will our amazing partners at Orlando Health. Our goal is to help Megan get back on the field as safely and smartly as possible, and we are behind her every step of the way. We look forward to seeing her back out on the pitch as soon as she is ready.”
The Pride originally acquired the defender in a trade with the Houston Dash on Jan. 28, 2022 that saw Marisa Viggiano go the other way. She was a regular starter at center back that year and through most of 2023, but lost the starting position when the club signed Brazilian international Rafaelle. Montefusco has made 45 appearances (42 starts) for 3,773 minutes in all competitions over her two seasons in Orlando, scoring one goal.
The 31 year-old signed a new contract with the Pride on June 15, 2023 through the 2024 season with an option for 2025. As one of the team’s main representatives alongside fellow center back Carrie Lawrence, Montefusco appeared at Orlando City’s preseason game against the New England Revolution, signing autographs and taking part in a question-and-answer session while wearing a walking boot.
What It Means for Orlando
This news is a bit of a blow to Orlando’s depth on the back line. Montefusco was the first center back off the bench late last year and was expected to have the same role this year. However, her absence will make room for Lawrence, who missed the 2023 season after suffering a torn ACL during preseason, and Tori Hansen, who is currently on loan with Melbourne Victory FC in Australia. The duo will now compete for the third center back spot unless the club replaces Montefusco with another veteran, as the NWSL transfer window remains open.
This injury could also open up a spot for the Pride to sign 2024 second-round NWSL Draft pick Cori Dyke, who the club took at No. 22 overall out of Penn State. Dyke has experience at center back in college. She played as a central midfielder for the first four years in college, but moved to center back for her final season. Despite moving to the back line, the 2023 season was her most productive offensively, as she recorded five goals and six assists.
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